Many people find themselves in the pursuit of happiness, as if happiness, itself, is some grand destination. When someone reaches their destination, they are finished; their journey has come to an end. Happiness, however, should be viewed as a continual journey and a boundless experience. Happiness is a way of life and, when practiced, can become a part of your routine. In many ways, happiness is a daily, if not weekly or hourly, choice.
It doesn’t take a great deal of time to make choices that will lead to a happier existence, but it does take practice, and a bit of persistence. In the same way that physical exercise can change and improve your body, mental exercise can change your attitude and outlook, and can ultimately lead to experiencing a happier state of being. Try one or all of the simple tactics below, and you can begin to feel happier in no time.
Choose to think positively.
Smile even when you don’t feel like smiling. By acting out the emotion you would like to experience, you can actually elicit the associated feelings. Have you ever noticed how your mood changes when you replay an experience in your mind? You start to relive those negative or positive emotions all over again. So, smile as often as you can and you will notice a change in your mood and in the way you cope with negative situations.
Be mindful of experiences throughout the day and take the time to savor all of the pleasant aspects of your life that may sometimes go unnoticed on a daily basis. Relish in the way your coffee smells in the morning or how wonderful the warm water from the shower feels on your skin. Delight in the sounds of laughter or the sight of children playing in your neighborhood. Be grateful for your health and for being able to start each new day.
Of course, there are plenty of awful things going on in the world around you and it is important to be aware of those things, but not to dwell on them. If you can decide to shift your primary focus to the positive, greater harmony and bliss may follow.
Choose to think rationally.
If nothing unpleasant ever happened, no one would ever be able to truly appreciate the more pleasurable experiences. Difficult times should be taken advantage of, as opportunities to learn and to improve your current situation.
The imagination is a powerful tool, but it can lead to distorted perceptions of reality. It is not uncommon to have worries, but in some cases, your own imagination can be your worst enemy and take your mind into situations that may never actually develop. Carefully consider each situation separately to gain an awareness of how realistic your worries actually are.
Try to avoid the all-or-nothing mentality. In the grand scheme of things, one small (or large) disappointment or mishap does not make you a failure. Just because you lost one job, it doesn’t mean you are totally unemployable and will never work again. You just have to seek out the next new, and possibly better, opportunity. Similarly, just because you ate one donut, it doesn’t mean you have totally destroyed your quest for healthier eating habits. Appreciate the taste of the yummy donut, give yourself permission to enjoy it again some other time, if desired, and use your next meal as another chance to make better choices. Again, negative (or perceived negative) occurrences are inevitable, but remember that each experience is an opportunity for growth.
Choose to think outside yourself.
Sometimes it is easy to become so self-absorbed that even the most insignificant problems seem insurmountable. Taking even a little bit of time to focus on the needs of someone other than you can have incredibly therapeutic benefits. When you consistently help others, you may experience less depression, increased calmness, fewer physical pains, overall better health, and possibly increased longevity.
It doesn’t take huge acts of heroism to help another person or to make a difference. It can be as simple as picking up a piece of trash from your neighbor’s yard, helping someone clean the snow off of their car, writing a thank you note, or calling to check up on a friend.
If you’re interested in more organized volunteer opportunities, but you’re not sure where to start, think about what you enjoy doing and find a cause that matches your interests. A helpful online resource is www.volunteermatch.org.
Taking your mind off your own worries may not only remind you of how fortunate you actually are, but may also add an unexpected sense of purpose and meaning to your life.